Daniel H. Pink, author of the 2012 best-selling book “To Sell Is Human” provides a great example of how to persuade others with the right questions. The example he gives is related to parenting however the method applies equally to influencing others to consider new approaches or changes such as building customer-centric cultures.
In this 4-minute video, Dan explains the concept of motivational interviewing. Specifically, this involves asking someone to rate their own readiness to start doing something you think is important. This will lead them to articulate their honest reasons for not doing it currently. From there, you can influence them to adhere to desired behavior more easily.
How does this relate to our customer culture tool? The business MRI?
Well, this is exactly how the MRI Benchmark assessment works. It prompts self-reflection on the 8 disciplines of customer culture, where do I rate the organization high, where are we low? And what do others in the organization think about where we stand?
The MRI Benchmark asks leaders the right questions, it gets them to think about what they are doing and whether it truly is customer-centric behavior.
This creates a tension that requires action, if scores are lower than expected a natural drive kicks in to want to improve. The journey towards a more customer-centric better performing business has begun!
Importantly once a benchmark is established you can focus on what obstacles need to be overcome to build a truly customer-centric culture.
The image above sits on my desk in my home office as a source of inspiration. It is a simple note from one of my favorite business authors, Jim Collins, responding to an unsolicited copy of our book, The Customer Culture Imperative. It is a testament to Jim how gracious he was to even respond, not having ever met nor heard of our work, yet he took the time to pen a handwritten note of encouragement, truly the behavior of a level 5 leader!
Hence the title of this post: going from good to great customer centricity!
Are you looking to make the jump from good customer centricity to great? You’re not alone – business leaders and customer experience professionals alike are recognizing that staying one step ahead of customers’ changing needs is essential for long-term success. While many organizations know they need to focus on putting their customers front and center, knowing where to start can be a challenge.
In this post, we’ll explore some key strategies for making the leap from good customer centricity to great. We’ll cover how data-driven customer insights can help organizations better understand their customers by listening to their own employees and identifying areas in which their products and services could be improved, as well as look at tactical ideas for delivering truly personalized experiences.
Read on for more on transforming your organization into a truly customer-centric powerhouse!
Customer-Centric Mindsets: Understand Your Customers – Know what makes them tick and determine the best way to reach out to them
Customer centricity begins with a mindset, one in which all leaders (regardless of function) and employees begin by viewing the world through the customer’s eyes. Understanding your customers is fundamental to achieving success. Gaining insight into their needs and preferences, and how best to reach out to them is key. Customer insights can help you understand who your customers are and why they buy, while customer foresight will allow you to anticipate what products or services could be in demand in the future. This information can help you create relevant content that speaks to the needs of your customers, allowing you to effectively communicate with them through the channels that make sense for your business.
Develop a Customer-Focused Value Proposition – Create an attractive offer that is tailored to their needs and interests
Developing a value proposition tailored to customer needs is crucial for any successful business. It should accurately reflect the benefits that customers will gain from engaging with your brand and how it provides more than what competitors can offer. Doing proper research to understand their buying habits, interests and preferences is key to crafting an attractive offer that will make them take notice.
Listening to employees who engage with customers regularly is an immediate source of data that many organizations miss. Those on the front lines interacting with customers regularly get a good feel for what customers value and the things they don’t like about doing business with your organization. Start by listening to them and engaging them in developing and refining your value propositions.
Additionally, having a clearly defined target audience and knowing exactly who the value proposition should be aimed at is also important in order to ensure it resonates with potential customers. Taking these steps will help create an effective customer-focused value proposition that has the best chance of persuading customers to embrace your brand.
Make it easy for customers – Leverage technology to streamline communication processes with customers
Automation tools provide a great way to quickly and efficiently streamline communication processes with customers. By using such automated software, businesses can automate mundane customer service tasks such as answering frequently asked questions and confirming order details. This type of automation not only reduces the time spent on mundane tasks but also allows the customer service representative to spend more time interacting with customers in meaningful ways that build better relationships.
Focus on Personalization – Utilize data analysis to tailor messages, content, and products to individual customers
Utilizing data analysis to customize messages, content, and products for each individual customer is an increasingly effective way to provide excellent service to customers. It can help businesses ascertain the wants and needs of each customer, allowing them to present tailored suggestions and offers that are much more relevant. Moreover, it sets a company apart in terms of its reputation for catering to individuals over large masses. Using data analysis additionally helps optimize the overall user experience with targeted messaging, personalized recommendations, and clever segmentation.
Monitor Feedback Regularly – Keep track of customer sentiment and adjust your approach accordingly
In a digital age, it is imperative to stay in tune with customer sentiment. By monitoring feedback regularly, businesses can adjust their approach to meet customer needs, shifting any negative sentiment towards branding or product offerings to positive. Doing so not only cultivates greater brand loyalty but also provides an accurate reflection of your business’s success or potential mistakes made. Listening closely to feedback can allow businesses to avoid potential pitfalls and instead move forward stronger and better than ever before.
Invest in Customer “Mindset” Capabilities – Empower customer-facing AND internally facing staff with the right skill sets and tools for success
Investing in customer “mindset” training is an essential component of providing your customers with the best possible experience. Employees who are enabled and encouraged to put the “customer lens” on regardless of their role add immense value to customer and colleague interactions. Investing in a comprehensive training program for those not only on the frontlines of customer service but also those who provide internal services translates into more productivity, improved customer care, and most importantly adds to the overall success of your business.
Understanding and unlocking the potential of effectively engaging with your customers is key to growing your business. By getting to know them, crafting an attractive value proposition, utilizing automation tools, and monitoring customer feedback, you can constantly adjust your approach towards customers in a manner that is tailored according to their needs. Additionally, investing in customer service training is a great way to ensure your team is equipped with the right skill sets and knowledge for success. When it comes down to it, strong customer engagement requires consistent effort, attention, and experimentation.
How many of these activities does your organization embrace? Are your employees on board?
Find out easily and go from “good to great” by measuring your level of customer centricity. Utilizing the Market Responsiveness Index (MRI) is a great way to measure just how customer-centric your organization really is as well as identify areas of improvement.
While some organizations need to engage in large transformation projects that involve seismic changes in business models, technology, products and services, and people, to survive, these are the exception rather than the norm.
Many leaders believe that changing to a stronger customer-centric business requires disruptive change with a high risk of failure, so they fail to act. Yes, it can be risky, as many case studies point out.
Many customer-centric initiatives lack the right measurement and lack a coherent strategy to strengthen the foundation of customer-centricity – culture. They also include too many projects that dilute focus and diffuse efforts. By not including these crucial ingredients, initiatives falter, and engagement and buy-in of leaders and employees is lost.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Strengthening your customer-centric culture can be achieved with consistent, easy-to-implement, practices that everyone in an organization can adopt. It should be preceded by measurement to know where you stand, so you don’t spend money on initiatives that are not necessary. Also, you will identify those initiatives that will make a significant difference.
Many of the world’s best practices are simple and easy to implement such as placing “customer” as the starting item on the agenda at every meeting. You will need to create a logic as to “why” meetings should start with a discussion about customers and an emotional connection that includes a customer story as to how those discussions benefit customers, employees, and the business.
If this, and other easy-to-adopt practices are implemented and become habits of behavior, your customer culture will become stronger. In addition, all the other things you do, such as getting feedback from customers and collaborating in teams to create value for customers, will multiply the benefits to your customers, your team, and your business.
The trick is to first know where you stand through measurement. This is the catalyst to gain buy-in and commitment from leaders and employees to implement specific practices. Then, check progress along the way and measure the benefits.
If you follow this process, your teams and your organization will transform before your eyes – and it will not only be painless, but it will be easy to continue. The risks are low and the payoffs can be high!
Result? Engaged and inspired leaders and team members. Appreciative and loyal customers. Growth and profit for the business. Satisfied shareholders.
What’s in it for you as a leader of this approach?
Great satisfaction from making a real difference and rapid promotion based on demonstrated success!
Ready to take your customer centricity to the next level? Don’t miss out on value insights that can help you improve customer centricity. Visit MRI Benchmark!
Today, many organizations have a myriad of projects designed to help the business become more customer-centric.
Ask anyone in a large government department that is looking to provide better services and improved service for its customers. Or in a large insurance company or a large manufacturer. They will tell you “we have 32 projects on the go for that.” Yes, they do.
But are they effective in achieving their goal? Sometimes, but mostly not!
In too many businesses, there is no overall program that creates a unified focus on customers for everyone in the organization. Without this, you have diverging interests and motivations aligned with specific projects. I am not criticizing people here. It is natural that individuals and teams will enthusiastically work on their own projects. But this can be counterproductive for the organization in moving forward as one unified group. It can enhance silo thinking – not silos around functions but silos around projects. Does this look like your organization?
You must have singular priorities that everyone understands, agrees on, and is motivated to act on. You must have agreed on customer-centric practices and actions that everyone commits to doing. You must have a shared understanding of what your customer segments’ needs are. And you must know, how in your role and function, you can add value for those customers. In short, you need a unified and shared mindset, priorities, and agreed practices that are acted upon day in and day out.
One company we work with has what they call a Success Index. This tool is used by everyone in the business to document the actions they are committed to over 3 months, 6 months, and beyond. Each quarter each individual and their boss reviews their progress and an index is used to measure their success.
This is a simple and powerful tool when used to create unity around a customer mindset supported by tangible practices that lead to increased value for customers and work colleagues.
How do you get started?
First, get feedback from employees on what is working and not working applying the 8 disciplines framework that we know are the foundation of customer-centric practices used by the most highly customer-centric organizations in the world.
Find out more about this research-based 8 disciplines methodology at MarketCulture.
If you ask senior leaders how customer-centric is the business they lead, the chances are that they will be much more positive than the reality.
If you ask 10 people in a business from different functions how customer-centric their business is, they will likely give widely different opinions.
If you ask 500 people, you will definitely get a wide variety of views.
If you ask 1000, there will be an even wider divergence.
Because they don’t objectively measure the most vital ingredient of customer centricity – customer culture: that is, what people in the business do that impacts customers. Specifically – how do they behave and what practices do they implement day in and day out with respect to customers.
We know from countless studies that an organization’s customer-centric culture drives customer experience that in turn drives customer retention and loyalty that leads to higher growth and profit as shown in this diagram.
If you don’t embed a strong customer culture right across the organization, you won’t get the rest – retained customers, trust, productivity, growth, and profit. Also, as a leader, you won’t get your team behind you or the momentum you need to be successful. At best your performance will be short-term, at worst it could be disastrous.
To get a strong customer culture you must find out where you are today through objective measurement that includes feedback from a large sample of people in your team or your business. Not just any measurement like employee engagement or net promoter score. Both of these measures are useful, but they do not measure customer culture.
This culture gap is a risky blind spot where decisions are taken in the dark and money invested on improving customer experience is lost.
You must use a purpose-built customer culture measurement tool. This must include universal behaviors that have been definitively found and tested to enable you to assess your company’s level of customer-centric practices – benchmarked against the most customer-centric and profitable businesses in the world.
There is only one purpose-built, validly tested, and reliably implemented customer culture measurement tool in the world – the Market Responsiveness Index (MRI). This has been used by more than 1000 organizations over the last 10 years and helped them create a unified view of their level of customer culture that everyone can agree on – and act to strengthen.
The ultimate stress test of your customer culture is when things go wrong for the customer.
The recent cyber-attacks on Australian businesses Optus and Medibank are cases in point. A survey was done of 2,000 Optus telecommunication customers who suffered a privacy breach. The survey found that 56% of current customers answered ‘yes’ when asked if they were considering changing telcos as a direct result of the cyber-attack, while 10% had already left. The customer comments were highly critical of Optus and its communication.
One commented that there had been no direct contact either by email, text or phone and said: “Their handling has been appalling.”
Also, research has found that many customers were paying too much for their phone plans by paying for much more data than they were using.
See “Optus customers hang up”, Daily Telegraph.com.au, October 31 2022, page 9.
Optus has apologized publicly, but that is not enough. The lack of an authentic customer-centric culture has shown that customers are not being treated as people and that as an organization they don’t act as if really care.
Not only will there be large compensation costs for Optus to pay but the massive impact longer term is the loss of customers and loss of trust.
One lesson is that if you have not already built a strong customer-centric culture in your business you will suffer in a crisis – by losing customers, trust, revenue, and profit that will require very large investments to rebuild. This is a culture where everyone has some engagement with customers and a mindset that treats customers as individuals and proactively communicates and takes action to help them,
One challenge for many organizations is to really know to what extent that culture exists. Is there a high risk that you can be blindsided, like Optus?
Every time we look we see a report from surveys of the status of customer experience (CX) inside companies that show a high percentage of leaders are dissatisfied with their CX strategy and they plan to change it in the next year. This might also include changing the CX leader.
CX quality appears to be declining as reported from Forrester’s 2022 Customer Experience Index report where they note: “US companies have lost the vital focus on customers that they gained at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Forrester’s 2022 US Customer Experience (CX) Benchmark study reveals losses in CX quality across 13 industries. It requires an enterprise-wide effort to put customers at the center of an organization’s leadership, strategy, and operations”
A small 2022 survey of Australian and New Zealand companies by CXFOCUS suggests that a majority of Australian & New Zealand companies are not satisfied with their current customer experience strategies. The same poll revealed that more than 80% of companies are planning major changes to their CX strategy in the coming months.
What is not addressed is the blindingly obvious. It’s not the strategy that is the problem, it’s the culture. The customer strategy may be brilliant, average or even weak, but the core of the strategy is not implemented, even in its basic form, because it is held back by the corporate culture. Even customer journey mapping may be well-documented and attempts made at linking each customer interface point with actions for improvement for customers. But what is missing is a company-wide, business-wide or function-wide customer culture that creates customer engagement and customer value creation/improvements across all parts of the organization.
If you want a better customer strategy you must have a customer-centered culture where everyone in the business has a mindset and customer awareness that motivates them to act on value improvements for customers, no matter what their role or function.
Now, when this is so obvious, why don’t leaders in organizations address it? Some believe the customer culture is much stronger than it actually is. Others believe it is too hard to change. Still, others believe it is not worth it.
Let’s consider. Almost all those who believe it is strong don’t have any objective evidence to support it other than anecdotal stories. We know this is the case because we have the only valid evidence-based customer culture measurement tool called the Market Responsiveness Index (MRI). We have found wide variations in businesses between leaders’ and employees’ perceptions and variations across functions.
Those who believe it is too hard to change, have not experienced a methodology where it is specifically designed to modify easy-to-change behaviors that can provide substantial improvements for customers and for work colleagues with whom they interact. Today’s world requires people in organizations to change their behaviors with customers. Like our experience with COVID, we can change.
Those who believe it is not worth it should consider this:- the companies that are highly customer-centric with strong customer cultures are among the most profitable in their industries and in the world. Second, consider where you will be if you don’t have a strong customer culture – you will have a customer strategy that is not implemented, a business strategy that is not effective, and a purpose and mission that is not achieved.
There is a reason the most customer-centric businesses in the world were born that way. To begin and become sustainable they were forced to be grounded in reality. They had to discover needs in the market that could be met, they had to work out how to service those needs and make a profit.
The businesses that have retained their customer-centric approaches as they have grown understood the need to remain grounded in the marketplace. Their leaders have not floated off into the ivory tower, rather they retain the pain of not delivering what they promised.
These leaders realize the work of organizations gets done at the front line and the further removed you are the larger the distance between you and reality. Hence the compelling need to empower those that are doing the work.
The best leaders don’t talk, they take action. They spend time with employees on the front line, speak with customers, put themselves in the customer’s shoes, and experience what it’s like to be a customer of their organization.
It is not complicated but it requires leadership which means consistent visible customer-centric action.
Creating a new business that endures over a long time is hard. We all know the statistics; 80 % of companies fail within the first 2-3 years.
What separates the businesses that sustain from those that wither away? Customer obsession. These companies have found a problem worth solving, a need that must be filled, and customers willing to pay. It all sounds simple.
What happens when these businesses grow up?
Over time their success breeds complacency. They no longer have to fight to win every customer; customers come to them; life is good. Leaders become managers and get paid to manage things already in place. The focus becomes the numbers, and the tail begins to wag the dog.
In markets where growth is turbocharged, mistakes are brushed under the rug. “So we stuffed up for that customer. There will be another one to replace them….”
It all goes well until the music stops; the tide goes out, and companies are exposed. Suddenly new products or services start failing not because they are bad products or services but because customers have lost trust. Managers have not been paying attention to the real source of revenue and profits – loyal customers.
Things have changed, growth has stalled, reputations decline, and customers are walking away.
Time for some customer-centricity.
The time has come to take a hard look at the business, how we are operating, what needs to change. We need to shift to a more customer-centric way of doing business!
Where do we start? How do we make it happen?
Like any and every major accomplishment in human history, everything great begins with one step forward.
In this case, that step is to take a realistic view of exactly how customer-centric you are as a business. For many that small step maybe a step too far: they don’t want to know.
Feedback hurts – it can feel like a knife twisting, gauging a hole in our being. It instills fear, even panic in us. And yet it is the truth, the way we perceive things is the way they are no matter what stories we want to tell ourselves.
So why do leaders say they want their businesses to be customer-centric but are not willing to take the first step?
Fear of failure.
Fear of exposure.
Fear that it will distract.
Fear that it cannot be sustained.
Fear that they cannot do anything to change.
So what is the antidote to all this fear?
Just do it.
A funny thing happens when you face your fears – you grow.
A true test of any company is what happens when things go wrong. Does the leadership step up to fix a problem? Is it a bandaid fix? or is it something permanent, that involves going to the root cause of a problem.
The world’s most customer centric company, Amazon has a great methodology called “Correction of Error” or COE. As Scott Brinker outlines in his article on innovating like Amazon: It has been baked into their culture and requires all leaders to ask the following questions:
What was the impact on customers and your business?
What was the root cause?
What data do you have to support this?
What were the critical implications, especially security?
What lessons did you learn?
What corrective actions are you taking to prevent this from happening again?
This is a great way to ensure that Amazon continues to learn and minimizes the chance that the same problem will happen for multiple customers.
Now for a fun 60 second example from the movie “Meet the Parents” with Ben Stiller
While this is obviously a made-up example, I am sure many of us have had similar experiences of over zealous staff taking policies and procedures a little too seriously.
If you were the responsible manager, or a colleague, what would you do?